All-American Miler: 5 Questions With Shannon Rowbury

Rowbury competing this past summer in London. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Shannon Rowbury of San Francisco is a two-time Olympian in the 1,500m and most recently placed sixth in the final at the Olympic Games in London last August–the best performance by an American woman in that event in the modern Olympics.

The 28-year-old Rowbury has also placed well at the world championships, capturing a bronze medal in the 1,500m in 2009. The 2007 Duke University graduate runs for Nike and is a co-founder of the Bay Area Track Club. We caught up with her recently to look back at her most recent Olympic experience, look ahead to the 2013 season, and discuss the possibility of moving up in distance.

You were the highest-placing American in the women’s 1500m in London, finishing sixth. But yet you had indicated afterward in an interview that you were disappointed with the race. Why is that? And now that you’ve had more time to think about the race, do you feel differently about your performance? Is there anything you would do differently if you make it to your third Olympic final?

With Beijing (in 2008), everything happened so fast. It was my first year as a professional athlete and suddenly I found myself in the Olympic final. While I wished I had placed higher, I was genuinely satisfied with what I had accomplished. For London, I had had four years to prepare and I had won a bronze medal at the world champs in 2009, so I knew I had what it took to medal. The race played out so strangely with the slow pace and then the fall. In all the chaos I got boxed, and even though I was closing well down the last 100m, it was too little too late. So I guess that was what disappointed me the most. In Rio, should I be so fortunate to make the final there, I might be more aggressive or try to control the race more. But it’s so hard to say. Each race is unique and you have to do your best to react well in the moment.

What are your goals for the forthcoming indoor season? What are some key races you plan on competing in and what do you hope to accomplish with your indoor racing?

I don’t have much planned for indoors. Maybe some longer stuff. We’ll see. Since I had a full racing season last summer, I want to make sure to build a good base this winter. In the races, if I race, then my goal would be to test my fitness level, to get a gauge on where I’m at and what I need to work on. Sort of a benchmark to help me moving forward.

Will you be moving up in distance for the next Olympic cycle and do you have any plans to take on the marathon or race on the roads? If you are planning to change your distance, why, and if not, why not?

I am definitely open to longer distances. I have always been a strength-oriented 1,500m runner and I’ve tried to do a 3K or 5K  each season. I’ve been able to keep improving my times with just one shot per season, so I’m excited to see how fast I can run with some practice and more familiarity with the event. I’m not sure how soon I will move up in distance but it’s definitely something I’ve thought about. I know I can do well in the 5K, but the 10K and marathon are uncharted territory. That being said, I’m open to and excited for the challenge.

This is the time of the year when most of us reflect and come up with New Year’s Resolutions. What are some of yours specific to running, and non-running?

My running resolutions for the 2013 season were to see my coach more and to have more running partners, both of which have already been accomplished. We just finished up a training camp in Florida with coach Cook and we have also brought on Tom Kloos to serve as an on-site coach for our training group in San Francisco. In addition, we have really centralized the training of the Bay Area Track Club, a group I helped co-found in 2009. We have a really great group of athletes, especially women, who I have really enjoyed training with!

Performance wise, it’s my goal to win the world championships. It’s a big one, but you have to have something to strive for!

In life, I don’t really know what my resolution would be. I would love to go on a nice relaxing vacation in the fall, since I haven’t had one of those in a while. I would also love to start developing skills for my career post-running, which would be something media-related, like working in broadcasting, having a travel show, or developing a book.

Many people reading this draw inspiration from you, but they aren’t as fast as you. What are some tips you can share with someone who wants to improve in the 1,500m or the Mile and what are some things about these distances that you’ve learned during your successful career?

The biggest thing for me during my career has been setting realistic goals, ones that will require effort and aren’t easy, but that are also imminently possible. Rather than saying I wanted to be an Olympian as a high school freshman, instead I said I wanted to be the best on my team. Once I did that, I wanted to be the best in my league, then my conference, then the state. I took the same approach in college. Before I knew it, I was the best 1,500m runner in the country and I was striving to be the best in the world. This kind of approach works with any person in any endeavour. The best part is that it’s extremely motivating, because you get this rush of adrenaline and pride when you accomplish a goal, accompanied by excitement about setting a new goal and trying to achieve it.

In terms of tips, the biggest thing I’ve learned about the Mile is that even though it’s short, you still need to be patient — 5,280 feet is still a lot of steps and it’s important to finish them with emphasis. So, I always try to pace myself in the beginning in order to make sure I can compete at the end.

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About The Author:

Duncan Larkin is a freelance journalist who’s been covering the sport of running for over five years. He’s run 2:32 in the marathon and won the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race in 2007. His first running book, RUN SIMPLE, was released in July.

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